Buzz ESN Playbook - click image to download

Buzz ESN Playbook – click image to download

Playbooks – whether for sports teams or businesses – contain a variety of tactics and detail to help those using them perform at their best in accomplishing their objectives. Playbooks continue to gain in popularity and use by community managers for online communities. They are useful both for those managing external communities as well as internal communities used by employees of a business.

I’ve known for years that we’ve needed a playbook at Humana to better document our efforts at managing and growing a successful enterprise social network (ESN). We’ve certainly been successful with our ESN (called Buzz) even without a written playbook for its first five years, but there has always been room for improvement. After all, having things only in my brain with just a few written pages to pass on to others who have had to manage Buzz when I’m away is not a solid, long-term plan.

It was, therefore, a top priority for me once I hired Brenda Smith in March of this year to have her devote a significant portion of her first few months with us developing a great playbook. I had some ideas of what needed to go into it. I shared with her all the documentation I had cobbled together for Buzz through the years. We researched other publicly available resources related to playbooks. We spent many hours discussing the playbook and debating its contents and organization. She did the writing, though, and all the heavy lifting. As she had drafts ready, we laid them out on a large conference room table and went through it changing the contents, structure, details, etc., until we finally landed on the playbook we’re happy to share with you today.

The brilliant idea of how to organize it was completely Brenda’s. While I had previously shared with her my love for Rich Millington’s work and his book Buzzing Communities, Brenda had the insight to arrange the playbook by the major categories Millington uses in that book. We also debated the option of arranging it according to the components of The Community Roundtable‘s Community Maturity Model (CMM). While we still use the CMM in the playbook for evaluation of our maturity (and we share those evaluation results in the playbook), we decided to stay with the Millington framework for the overall structure.

So what is in our playbook? Here are the major sections, with many of them including levels of detail around objectives, strategies and tactics:

  • Introduction (history of Buzz and role of the community manager)
  • Overall goal of Buzz and how it integrates with the company’s values and goals
  • Road map
  • Growth
  • Content
  • Moderation
  • Influence and relationships
  • Events and activities
  • Business integration
  • User experience
  • ROI
  • Community Maturity Model assessment
  • Daily tasks
  • Weekly tasks
  • Biweekly tasks
  • Monthly tasks
  • Quarterly tasks
  • Annual tasks
  • On-demand tasks
  • Reports

Of course, we have removed from the publicly available version of the playbook all sensitive or proprietary data. For example, we removed the details of the ROI calculation, although we still include the overall percentage result. We have removed roadmap details, internal URLs, administrative access login detail, internal phone numbers, etc. So the actual internal version of the playbook is about 10 pages longer than this 50-page playbook, but you still have all the detail in this public version that you need to get your mental juices flowing about what a helpful playbook for your organization and community might look like.

One of the greatest joys I get professionally is when I feel like I make a small difference in some way in the field of enterprise social networking. That is why I started the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in 2013 and it is the reason I’m eager to share this Buzz playbook with you now. Will our playbook be exactly what you should use for your community? No. But reading through it will certainly give you some food for thought that you can take back to the key stakeholders in your organization and use to develop a great resource that fits your need.

So it is with a bit of a sense of being a proud papa and with great thanks to Brenda Smith that we offer this playbook to our ESN-loving friends and acquaintances around the globe. Click the button below to view and download our Buzz ESN Playbook. Please share your thoughts in comments here or with us on Twitter – @JeffKRoss and @brendaricksmith. What would you change, add or remove?

And join us Thursday, October 1 from 2-3pm EDT as the subject of this week’s #ESNchat is playbooks! (Be sure and follow @ESNchat.)



12TipsForSuccessfulESNI’m pleased to let you know that I recently completed a series of posts discussing my top 12 tips for building a successful enterprise social network (ESN). You’ll find them on my LinkedIn profile page and at the links below. Each post is an update of the original 2014 post on the subject that appeared on this blog.


  1. Have a Full-Time Community Manager From the Start
  2. Commit To It
  3. Get Executive Buy-in and Participation
  4. Have Rules, But Don’t Overdo It
  5. Pick a Good Platform, But Don’t Focus On the Technology
  6. Avoid ‘Big Launch Syndrome’
  7. Encourage Business and Non-Business Content
  8. Integrate Your ESN Where People Do Their Work
  9. Make It Easy To Access
  10. Train, Train, Train
  11. Set Goals and Track Progress
  12. Never Be Satisfied – Keep growing

ChristianBeliefs-GrudemOne of my modern heroes of theological writing is Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary. I recently read one of the several books he has written and which his son, Elliot Grudem, edited – Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. I read it because my pastor and I are team teaching a class using the book as our guide over the next four months. It’s a small, 159-page paperback that is quickly read and digested.

On the other end of the depth spectrum is Grudem’s 1290-page Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine which has kept many seminarians and pastors occupied for countless hours of study (myself included). I’m nearly finished reading the monster and will write another review soon this month when I complete it.

In between the small paperback and the large volume is yet another middle-sized book, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, a 528-page condensed version of the larger Systematic Theology written by Grudem and edited by Jeff Purswell. So, the reader can certainly pick the size and depth of study he wishes to undertake from tackling the original, massive Systematic Theology, to the subsequent half-sized but still meaty Bible Doctrine, or the latest and much simpler Christian Beliefs. And for those not even inclined to invest the few hours it takes to read Christian Beliefs, you can cut right to the 6-page laminated book summary of either Systematic Theology or Bible Doctrine. Hopefully, though, your interest in biblical theology warrants more than a 6-page cheat sheet – nice to have around, but not all you need to know on the subject.

So, given that background of relevant Grudem texts, let’s get back to the subject of this review – Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

As the subtitle suggests, this book focuses on 20 Christian doctrines (or teachings) considered basic to the Christian faith. To include 20 topics as well as a few historic confessions of faith and a list of recommended reading in 159 pages demands that only a few pages be written per doctrine. Because of this, the book is appropriate for someone new to the faith or wanting a refresher across the spectrum of doctrines included. It will not (nor is it intended to) provide an in-depth look at any of the 20 doctrines included. By comparison, Systematic Theology has 57 chapters of about 20 pages length each in addition to the confessions of faith and other appendices in its nearly 1300 pages. You get what you pay for.

Still, as a guide for further exploration of what the Bible teaches, the book serves a valuable purpose of pointing the reader to a variety of biblical texts for each of the topics discussed. As Grudem does so well in all of his writings, he presents a faithful explanation of what each doctrine is and a sound, biblical basis for all conclusions drawn. He never shies away from presenting dissenting opinions by those in various faith traditions, being careful in the appendix listing further reading to provide some background about each author’s theological tradition and perspective. The book is not intended to present biblical teachings from any one particular denominational perspective; it intends to answer the question of what the Bible teaches on the subjects – a healthy approach that ought to cross denominational biases.

Like his other texts, the starting point of Christian Beliefs is Grudem’s discussion of the Bible as the word of God. If the Bible is the authoritative basis for beliefs, then its authority and reliability is crucial to establish up front before using biblical texts as the basis for additional doctrinal positions. The full list of 20 doctrines covered is as follows:

  • What Is the Bible?
  • What Is God Like?
  • What Is the Trinity?
  • What Is Creation?
  • What Is Prayer?
  • What Are Angels, Satan, and Demons?
  • What Is Man?
  • What Is Sin?
  • Who Is Christ?
  • What Is the Atonement?
  • What Is the Resurrection?
  • What Is Election?
  • What Does It Mean to Become a Christian?
  • What Are Justification and Adoption?
  • What Are Sanctification and Perseverance?
  • What Is Death?
  • What Is the Church?
  • What Will Happen When Christ Returns?
  • What Is the Final Judgment?
  • What Is Heaven.

In addition are the appendices that include a few historic Christian confessions of faith and Grudem’s recommended reading list, plus an index. Each chapter concludes with a few questions for review and application that are good for personal reflection or for group discussion.

I suspect that most churches have members who are differently inclined to tackle the three Grudem’s works mentioned above, from the quick Christian Beliefs to the weighty Systematic Theology. I still have a desire to take about a year to walk through Systematic Theology with a small group at some point in the future. Laymen can handle it. We need not “dumb down” theology as though the preaching class are able to understand things that the people in the pews cannot. We are all led by the same Spirit of God into the truth of His word, and God can surely speak to whomever He pleases regardless of position or formal theological education. In fact, if I had the benefit of a few current study Bibles and works like Systematic Theology when I attended two seminaries decades ago, I may have been just as well off studying those on my own as spending five or more years in the classroom, but I digress…

As for recommending Christian Beliefs, I do recommend it to those new to the Christian faith, those new to Protestant faith (as opposed to Roman Catholic), those interested in the faith, or to those wanting a quick refresher on important biblical doctrines. Then, assuming your appetite is whetted, advance to either Bible Doctrine or, better yet, Systematic Theology for an incredible, long-term, more in-depth study of what the Bible teaches on the above and many additional topics.

For further reading:

BibleDoctrine-Grudem     SystematicTheology-Grudem

My father-in-law, Chuck Kiger, in his earlier adult years

My father-in-law, Chuck Kiger, in his earlier adult years

I had a really unusual dream last night. Let me tell you about it along with the obvious meaning to me…

In the dream, I was with a lot of family members at my in-laws’ previous home in St. Louis. My father-in-law, Chuck, who passed away suddenly in that home in 1999, was sitting in his favorite chair. There was a calendar on the wall that was rapidly flipping back in time to the day he passed away. Others in the family knew what was about to happen, but Chuck did not. He was struggling a bit physically, but was lucid and still engaging in conversation.

When I entered the room, my mom had just told Chuck that she loved him. She left the room and then I had my chance to say some things to him. I told him that he was a great father-in-law, that I really appreciated him and that I loved him. The look on his face was priceless and he was so pleased to hear those words from me.

As strangely as the dream started, it ended.

Many times we dream but keep on sleeping and don’t even recall the dreams when we awaken later. But some dreams carry such an impact that we awaken immediately and have a tough time going back to sleep. Such was the case with this dream. I woke up and immediately thought, “Tell people that you love them while you still can, because you may not have another chance.”

That isn’t an earth-shattering revelation. We’ve all heard the sentiment many times and have probably said it a few times as well. Reminders of important truths are important, though, since we tend to get wrapped up in our busy lives and fail to do some of the basics that are actually far more important than the busyness that occupies us.

I’ve lost friends and family suddenly without the chance to say goodbye. I’ve had other times where we’ve known the end was near and those precious final goodbyes were said with deep love and affection. We have no such guarantees, though.

So love well in word and in deed. Tell them while you still can. You may not have another chance.

A little over a year ago I published a series of 12 posts on this blog giving my top tips for building a successful enterprise social network. (An ESN is an internal-facing social platform for employees of a company). You’ll find links to that series here. I thought it would be good to update those tips now that more than a year has passed, so I’ve started posting those updates as LinkedIn posts. The first seven of the 12 are now available at the following links:

  1. Have a Full-Time Community Manager From the Start
  2. Commit To It
  3. Get Executive Buy-in and Participation
  4. Have Rules, But Don’t Overdo It
  5. Pick a Good Platform, But Don’t Focus On the Technology
  6. Avoid ‘Big Launch Syndrome’
  7. Encourage Business & Non-Business Content

I’ll update the remaining tips throughout the month of August. Thanks for reading and sharing! I’d love to hear from you in the comments here or on the LinkedIn posts.